Why was the Audit Commission in such a mess?

In response to a comment from Witterings from Witney, I have decided to re-post an article that I first published in Feb07.

I replied to his comment thus:

We need to consider WHY departments like the Audit Commission have become box ticking, target fulfilling robots, like most other departments and police forces.

I shall re-blog an article that I first published in Feb 07, which shows quite clearly that it is the same consultancies that Pickles now wants to farm the Audit Commission work to, are responsible for creating the problem in the first place.

Its a classic case of Problem, Reaction, Solution (which I have written of before), but it is us, the taxpayer who have paid (in the £billions) for these consultants to destroy what were once very efficient departments and will have to pay these consultants again if Pickles gets his way.

THAT is what I meant by vested interests.

The very last paragraph of the Article below, first published 17th February 07, tells us why the Audit Commission is being closed in favour of consultant auditors.

Government Services or Consultancy Services

Government has been so overwhelmed by the influences of the big consultancy groups over the past 6 or 7 years, that is has effectively become a management consultancy in its own right.

No longer does government do anything, it just directs others to do it for them, or to outsource it, because it does not have the resources or expertise in house to fulfil its obligations, and service levels to you and me in every government department have fallen dramatically as a result.

Management consultancies work along the following lines.

Get agreement from the management of company that they need the consultancy to oversee their organisation in order to find weaknesses in the services that they offer, and to generate processes that will ensure the efficient running of the organisation under any circumstances. They call it a roadmap, I call it painting by numbers, or an idiots guide, and wherever possible, offer to undertake the operational running of key departments on their behalf, ie. Outsource key areas like finance and IT.

For the big consultancy firm its number one objective is billing, or billable time. The object of the exercise is not the health of the target company, but the revenue that you can generate  out of them.


So, we take a department that works really well, turns in a profit, and has happy and productive staff, and break down what they do.

The analysis will probably show that they do most of their functions with 3 or 4 steps. In order to increase the billing capability, the consultancy will need to measure how efficient they are, and generate 25 point process to do the same thing, plus administration. Billable time, nice little earner.

The first step is to do a time and motion study, then to rewrite completely the working practices in that department. Part of that rewrite will be to generate a process, or a series of processes, so that metrics can be gathered, and the metrics will be used for generating pie charts and graphs to show senior management what they already knew, and maintain an audit trail. More billable time.

This will involve breaking the workforce down into smaller groups, appoint a supervisor to check over them, and generate statistics on what the workforce have been doing during their working day, how they have been doing it, whether they have been efficient, whether anything was missed, whether they could be more efficient if they hired more staff to relieve the pressure, and basically generate more paperwork relating to the smaller workforce than a rain forest can sustain. Even more billable time.

Each member of staff will need to reapply for their own job in this new area, just to make sure that they are capable of doing what they have always been capable of doing, but the real reason is to make them accept a new contract of employment, which is loaded with targets, new working practices and disciplinary processes.

Taking this scenario through each department, then apply it to an entire company and it usually adds approx 15pct increase in the number of staff, sometimes much more, to administrate the new processes, which are initially staffed by contractors supplied by the consultancy, as the target company does not have that kind of resource available, never did, never needed them.

The result is that what was a very efficient company or organisation, now becomes a process driven, target instilled, administration rich people farm. Workers within the organisation end up painting by numbers, follow the process with no deviation, no discretion, run by a Management Consultancy, because the board of directors no longer have control over their own processes, but have to live by the Consultants mission statements.

This has now become the norm for government.

To see this in action across government, see NHS (now has 1 administrator per bed space, and if cuts in bed spaces continue possibly 2 by the year end), Police forces, (lots more examples on this site, tongue in cheek of course), local government (worker 1 ticks 2 boxes, passes on to worker 2 etc).

So when John Reid stands up in Parliament and replies to written questions, and states that he does not know how many people have been re-arrested under the Terrorism Act, he is not lying.  When he says he does not know how many people are in police cells, he is not lying, and when he says that The Home Office is not fit for purpose, he definitely is not lying.

He genuinely does not know, because the management consultants and outsource companies that are running all the departments and doing all the work for the HO are only interested in billing, not delivering services. The new Home Office mission statement has now been imposed, without discussion with the workers or the unions.

Tell me whether this statement from the ACPO is consultancy or policing, because I can see nothing about policing here. Just lots of fancy consultancy talk like ‘delivery partners’ and ‘simpler performance framework’.  Absolutely nothing about catching crooks.

Indeed, unlike American police departments that have outsourced paperwork to civilians to free up more cops for the streets, British forces have outsourced actual policing to civilian ‘community support officers’.

The Police are now just uniformed clerks, they tabulate incidents and send letters advising how not to provoke criminals: don’t display valuables in your car, don’t use your mobile at the station…but no policing.

If that weren’t bad enough, the police zealously protect their monopoly of the use of force. Anyone who defends himself against a robber faces arrest and energetic prosecution. (Now that police routinely refuse to respond to burglary calls, the way to get them round is to tell 999 you intend to clobber the intruder.)

As a result, you are more likely to be a victim of violent crime in Britain than any other Western country except Australia. People know how bad things are – which is why they distrust the massaged statistics showing an overall drop in crime.

See here, (another consultant) and here (to set up another admin group, not to deliver anything), and here (£2.8 billion consultants fees, to do what OGC should be doing anyway.

The outgoing head of OCG John Oughton was told by the Public Accounts Committee “You must be extremely frustrated….you don’t figure out whether you can use your own staff properly, you don’t procure properly, you don’t project manage properly, and then there’s not a proper project review. But you were saying all that years ago”), and here (and then fiddle the books to justify being there in the first place).

All of this waste is undertaken with the approval of Gordon Brown. He is the only one responsible for this disgusting waste of our money, our taxes.

He alone is responsible for the quality of services to be at their lowest since the war, the highest tax rates and by far the largest ever amount of waste.

Because the Consultancy groups are outside contractors they are accounted for by the Treasury under different budgets, PFI accounts do not show up in his twice yearly report to parliament, so for the past 10 years he has been able to hide it, but not for much longer.

Get rid of the consultants, get government departments to run themselves, like they used to, with ministers taking responsibility, like they used to, and a Treasury under public scrutiny, like it used to.


UPDATE – the article written here sums up Britain far better than I can.

It explains Britain’s public bodies and civil servant’s apparent incompetence not as failure, but as a failure by design.

About IanPJ

Ian Parker-Joseph, former Leader of the Libertarian Party UK, who currently heads PDPS Internet Hosting and the Personal Deed Poll Services company, has been an IT industry professional for over 20 years, providing Business Consulting, Programme and Project Management, specialising in the recovery of Projects that have failed in a process driven world. Ian’s experience is not limited to the UK, and he has successfully delivered projects in the Middle East, Africa, US, Russia, Poland, France and Germany. Working within different cultures, Ian has occupied high profile roles within multi-nationals such as Nortel and Cable & Wireless. These experiences have given Ian an excellent insight into world events, and the way that they can shape our own national future. His extensive overseas experiences have made him all too aware of how the UK interacts with its near neighbours, its place in the Commonwealth, and how our nation fits into the wider world. He is determined to rebuild many of the friendships and commercial relationships with other nations that have been sadly neglected over the years, and would like to see greater energy and food security in these countries, for the benefit of all. Ian is a vocal advocate of small government, individual freedom, low taxation and a minimum of regulation. Ian believes deeply and passionately in freedom and independence in all areas of life, and is now bringing his professional experiences to bear in the world of politics.
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4 Responses to Why was the Audit Commission in such a mess?

  1. jameshigham says:

    One of your best – interesting to see it detailed,how it operates. Should be required reading by all who purport to know what they’re voting for.

    • Thanks for the positive comment James.

      It is of course not just the Audit Commission that finds itself under this kind of self destructive process driven target seeking sentence, every government department, agency, NGO and Quango is in the same boat.

      I had hoped that this coalition would seek to repair the best institutions rather than just scrap and outsource, but of course I do not hold my breath, as it will be the ‘nudge’ towards EU control of these functions that will take precedence in their decision making.

  2. Clare Baitup says:

    I wrote to the Audit Commission regarding the paper Nothing but the Truth.
    I sent them evidence of a shadow set of records for a child in Devon, my son.
    This included,health and education.
    The discussion paper was in regard to how poor data undermines accountability and damages trust.
    I sent a plethora of false data that ended up on The National Pupil data base, to aid the audit commission, because the one concept that they did not discuss was that persons would deliberatley corrupted data for profit.
    I wrote to the Chaiman Mr O’Higgins.
    I recieved a reply on Friday 13th August 2010,
    The last paragraph reads,
    Unfortunately the Audit Commission cannot investigate the concerns of individuals as that would go beyond our remit
    I provided the Audit Commission with evidence of serious fraud.
    I also informed them of official whistleblower teachers.
    I didnot bring this as a complaint but support to the discussion paper that fraud is being run using e-procurment.
    I thought the Audit Commission was the protector of the Public Purse.
    I think their Champagne lifestyle was all they where protecting.
    Section 33 of the Audit Commission Act 1998, whereby the Commission undertakes
    studies designed to enable it to make ,efficiency and effectiveness in local authorities and other puplic bodies which are subject to audit.
    Exposing fraud and corruption would be the most effective.

  3. Pingback: Why was the Audit Commission in such a mess? | The Albion Alliance presents

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